How To Make Syndet Bars?

Have you ever heard of syndet shampoo bars or just shampoo bars? They are basically a syndet bar. Most commercial soaps are actually syndet bars. Bath and shower gels are syndet but in liquid form. Want to learn what is and how do you make a syndet bar at home? Just read this post.

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Watch This Tutorial Video About How To Make Syndet Bars

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Syndet Bars vs Soap Bars

The word “syndet” is formed by the words “synthetic” and “detergent”. It reffers to the binding of different detergents, also called surfactants or tensio-active agents. These detergents, which have an affinity for oils and repel water, surround dirt with a sort of small “coat” that are then removed by water.

From a technical viewpoint, syndets have a big advantage over soap: a lower pH. This allows the possibility of using additives (colorants and fragrances) that are not suitable for soaps due to the high pH environment.

Some anionic surfactants contained in syndets may cause sensitization problems in reactive skins. However, syndets are recommended for cleansing sensitive skin and even baby skin. They are in theory gentler than traditional soap salts, due to a lower pH. 

Syndet bars are often marketed as “cleansing bars” or “dermatological bars”, “soap free” or “soaps without soap.”. This may be confusing although in a sense they are all correct. Most store-bought hygiene and skincare products in the market today are syndets. 

Handmade Soap has been relegated to the traditional crafts sector. But there is an increasing demand for Natural Soap (vegetable) as people slowly move away from chemicals, chemical processes and the surfactants widely used in syndet manufacture. The problem with commercial skincare products is not the surfactants per se but its overuse along with the huge amount of other irritating chemicals.

Soap invokes a time when cosmetics were not widely used and when people used the same soap for their bodies and their laundry, often made in small batches at home – something this blog wishes to recover.

Fact is, handmade soap, produced with vegetable oils and lye (100% caustic soda), are currently milder and gentler to the skin than commercial soaps. Probably because its formulation contains natural glycerin, something you can’t find in any over-the-counter product, and a small percentage of the same vegetable oils in its natural form.

pink syndet bar
Syndet Bar
colorful soap bars stamped with "made with love"
Soap Bar

Why Syndet Bars on a Handmade Soap Making Blog?

As we have just learned, syndets are synthetic detergents. So, what are they doing in a blog that defends natural handmade soap? Well, because they have low pH. They can be beneficial over pure soap, especially for sensitive skin and for hair washing. 

Hair may suffer from high soap pH, and long-term soap usage on your hair is really a bad idea. Hair has an acidic pH – below 7 – and it likes acidic things. The more damaged your hair, the higher the pH or the closer to neutral or pH 7 will be, and the harder it will be to condition.

Using products that have a pH higher than 7, like handmade soap, can result in matting, tangling, and dull looking hair as the cuticle will fail to lay flat and you may be stripping off some of those lovely lipids. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

If you actually want to make a fine shampoo, with vitamins, proteins and nutrients that nourish and treat your hair, better make a syndet bar. Use mild surfactants (or surfactant, staet simple and use only one) to make a non-agressive shampoo.

Washing your intimate feminine zone is also not adviseable with a alkaline product, see why in Intimate Soap Bar Recipe (I’ve called it a soap for simplicity, but it’s actually a syndet bar). That’s where a syndet bar comes in handy.

Soap has inherently a high pH. It allows soap to be anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungi. If you try to lower its pH below 7, it is no longer soap. Beware of soap recipes that attempt to lower pH below 7. That was why syndets were created, anyway. Some syndets allow to create low pH products safely, as they have a low pH on its own: 5.5.

Syndet Bars Don’t Need To Be 100% Synthetic

Even if you are using a synthetic detergent, you can make a pretty natural product with it, by adding:

  • vegetable oils, 
  • herbal waters, 
  • essential oils, 
  • plant extracts,
  • anti-oxidants, 
  • proteins like hydrolised silk or wheat, 
  • vitamins like d-panthenol (a provitamin B5)

Because there’s no need to reach high temperatures and there are no chemical reactions, you can use delicate, temperature-sensitive ingredients you wouldn’t be able to use in soap. You also can make an unscented bar, free of dyes or only with natural dyes (like clays). And you can avoid unwanted chemicals.

With a syndet product, we take the best of the modern and the ancient world. A balanced mix of syntetic and natural ingredients, to make products adequate for more sensitive parts of your body.

Syndet shampoo bars have been the only product I was able to make at home that left my hair clean and fluffy, without product build-up. Also being a good combination with my homemade conditioner.

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Not all Shampoo Bars Are Syndet Bars

While the option to use soap shampoo bars, syndet shampoo bars, or any sort of shampoo, for the matter, is entirely your choice, it is important to know what you are actually getting. 

Both syndet and soap bars use the “shampoo bar” designation indiscriminately. Some bars may say “Soap free”, while some soap makers call their soap bars as “shampoo bars” without a “soap” designation. “Natural” and “Sulfate-free” terms do not help as well, as that can be true to both. Yes, many brands and blogs use the word “natural” even when synthetic detergents are used… Technically, they are not. 

Always read the ingredients list – mandatory in the product label and many times available online. This will truly inform you if you have a syndet shampoo bar or a soap bar in front of you. Learn how to know about soap ingredients in Commercial Soap Ingredients – What Are They?  

How to Make Syndet Bars

Syndet bars are somehow similar to making emulsions. Ok, I am speaking about a totally different final product. But if you replace the water phase for a liquid phase and an oil phase for a solid phase, the process starts to look somehow similar. At least, you can make some paralells between both processes.

Solid Phase Ingredients

Ingredients that are solid at room temperature. I use the surfactant SCI that comes in powder form, that is my main syndet ingredient. Other solid ingredients may be cetyl alcohol, hydrolised oat flour protein, clays or citric acid. 

Liquid Phase Ingredients

All ingredients that are liquid at room temperature. I also add the BTMS (even if it is a solid ingredients at room temperature), to melt it along the liquids. Liquids may be vegetable oils, herbal waters or distilled water, hydrolised silk, vegetable glycerin, aloe vera gel and any other liquids, apart from the cooling phase ingredients.

Lately, I’ve started to use a liquid surfactant, Cocamidopropyl Betaine. It helps with SCI solubility which definitely helped with my homemade recipes using SCI. It’s also a very mild surfactant, having a pH of 5.5.

Cooling Phase Ingredients

All heat-sensitive ingredients: some delicate vegetable oils, vitamins like d-panthenol, anti-oxidants, essential oils, preservatives. 

Temperatures and Heating Process

I like bagne-marie and it’s the only heating process I recommend to make syndet bars, emulsions or even balms. The ingredients heat gently and uniformly, without the need to provide direct heat (that may burn some ingredients). Avoid using microwave or direct heat, this will protect all ingredients from being chemically changed due to unwanted high temperature.

how to make syndet bars

Always check my recipes against the manufacturer’s ingredients recommendations, and follow the latter. My SCI supplier, for example, recommends to melt SCI with aqueous phase (let’s call it liquid phase ingredients) at 75ºC, and those are the directions I follow, as SCI is the main surfactant in my syndet bars.

As I am afraid of damaging the vegetable oils I use, I heat my ingredients just enough to melt the waxes, solid oils or the surfactants. I usually work at temperatures rounding 50ºC – 60ºC (120ºF – 140ºF).

Hope you liked this post!!! If you have any questions or wish to say something about this post, leave a comment below. If you want to know about syndet bar recipes, check out the links below.

2 thoughts on “How To Make Syndet Bars?”

  1. Well well well.  I have to say that this has been a very interesting read as i had never previously heard of a sydnet bar. This was probably due to the fact that i havent (or seldom) used shampoo in about 25 years. You see, in that time i have always had a mohawk or shaved head so when i have hair, i use pears soap to spike it up. Then it just rinses out. Viola!

    • Hello Kwidzin, thanks for your comment!

      If you don’t have any issues by using soap on your hair, this is definitely an alternative to shampoo! You are also using something that is more natural than most shampoos. 

      For me, syndet bars are an alternative when you don’t get along with soap bars in your hair.



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